Pasta with Rapini and Sausage
So, any guesses on what that vegetable was? Now in your grocery stores, it’s leafy, it’s healthy, it’s pleasantly pungent, it’s…rapini!
Rapini, also known as broccoli rabe, is in season now and is a pretty interesting vegetable. For one, you use the entire plant — stalks, leaves, and florets — and all parts of the plant have the same flavor. It’s loaded with Vitamins A, C, and K, and like broccoli, also has calcium, iron, potassium, folate and fiber.
If you’ve never tried rapini, you should at least know what to expect before you taste it — I’m speaking from personal experience! The first time I tried it, I was expecting it to taste just like broccoli…so you can imagine my surprise when I got a mouthful of peppery, slightly mustardy greens. That’s not to say that rapini isn’t good — it’s delicious! You just have to know what to expect. Plus, isn’t it fun to try a new green vegetable every once in awhile?
I find rapini a bit strong solo, but it’s beautiful paired with sausage. Sausage and rapini are, in fact, a classic Italian combination. Something about the sweetness of the sausage tones down the assertive flavor of the rapini, and the rapini’s mild peppery bite also livens up the sausage. It’s a great pair!
This is a quick weeknight pasta recipe that comes together in about 30 minutes. I like to use a chunky pasta that roughly matches the size of the rapini and sausage — in the picture above, I used rombi, which are like little miniature pieces of lasagna noodles (made by Bionaturae Organic). Orrecchiette is terrific, and farfalle would be pretty good too. While you’re boiling the water for the pasta, you can prep and saute the rapini and garlic. While the pasta is in the water, you can cook the sausage in the same pan you cooked the rapini in (everything’s going to go back in there at the end anyway.) Once the pasta is done and drained, you just toss it in the pan with the sausage, add back in the sauteed rapini along with some Parmaiggiano-Reggiano cheese, crushed red pepper, and a bit of pasta water, give it a quick stir, and plate it up with more shaved cheese on top. A nice, warm, pasta dish on a cold winter’s night!
Pasta with Rapini and Sausage
8 oz chunky pasta (orrecchiette, rombi, farfalle, etc.)
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 lb sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 bunch rapini, bottom 2 inches discarded and the remaining stalks, florets and leaves cut into 2-inch pieces
1 tbsp minced garlic (about 3-4 cloves)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmaiggiano-Reggiano cheese
1 cup pasta cooking water
coarse salt and pepper to taste
Bring water to a boil in a large stockpot, and season it generously with salt (I use about 4 tbsp coarse salt to a large pasta pot filled with water — it’s important to salt the water so the pasta is properly seasoned; since there isn’t a real “sauce” on this pasta, you’ll want your pasta to have the proper seasoning.) Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package, then drain and reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chopped rapini and the garlic and saute until the rapini is bright green, about 3-4 minutes. If the skillet gets too dry and the rapini looks like it’s starting to stick, spoon a little bit of pasta water into the skillet. Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper, and then scoop the cooked rapini out of the skillet into a bowl and set aside.
Heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in the skillet and add the sausage. Cook until browned and no longer pink, breaking up into chunks with a fork.
Into the skillet with the sausage add the cooked rapini and the drained pasta, along with 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper, and 1/2 cup grated Parmaiggiano-Reggiano cheese. Toss to combine, and taste — season with more coarse salt and/or pepper if it needs it.
Serve topped with more grated or shaved cheese.